It’s almost time for the 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards, one of the culinary world’s most esteemed ceremonies which recognizes talent in all facets of the food industry, from front of house to back of house and beyond. Since the gala takes place on May 7 here in Chicago, a ton of outside talent is hitting the city for a few days before and after the awards, popping up with tastes of ethereal focaccia and sherry-laced painkillers. Below, all the parties, bar takeovers, and meals open the public, including a collab from local nominee Lee Wolen of Boka, who’s teaming up with Shake Shake on a special burger available for just one day.
Friday, May 4
—New York’s The Nomad expanded to LA earlier this year, and now the bar team is landing in Chicago to take over the Broken Shaker in the Freehand hotel. Drop by beginning at 8 p.m. for drinks like a sherry painkiller (amontillado sherry, pineapple, coconut rum, orange juice) and start me up (bourbon, rum, Strega, honey, ginger, lemon, orange bitters) by David Purcell, Pietro Collina, and Shaun Dunn.
Saturday, May 5
—Chef Edouardo Jordan (nominated for Best Chef: Northwest this year) of Seattle’s Salare and JuneBaby (Eater National’s Best New Restaurant of the Year and a Beard nominee for Best New Restaurant) is hosting a dinner on Soho House’s roof deck from 8 to 11 p.m. honoring James Beard-recognized chefs of color. The $100 soirée includes unlimited wine, Heaven Hill spirits, plus bites by Asha Gomez (The Third Space, Atlanta), Aya Fukai (Maple & Ash), and Kwame Onwuachi (Kith & Kin, Washington, D.C.). Tickets for the Iconoclast Dinner Experience’s All-Star Culinary Bash are available here.
—Tucson, Arizona’s El Guero Canelo—famed for its bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dog (decorated with pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, jalapeño sauce, mustard, and mayo) took home the America’s Classic award this year. So, founder Daniel Contreras has decided to bring his dogs (including white buns shipped up from Mexico) to Chicago, totally gratis. Pop by the French Market (in the Beaver’s Donuts space) to try the Tucson legend on both May 5 and 7 from 11 a.m. until dogs are gone (probably around 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Monday). Contreras himself plans to make an appearance on Saturday from noon to 1 p.m.
Sunday, May 6
—Los Angeles’ Mediterranean-themed Bar Clacson (nominated for Outstanding Bar Program this year) is joining forces with House Spirits Distillery for a pop-up at Broken Shaker in the Freehand from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Partners Eric Alperin, Richard Boccato and Dustin Newsome will be in the house mixing and muddling, snag a table by emailing email@example.com.
—The Boka crew—executive chef Lee Wolen and pastry chef Meg Galus—are throwing a barbecue in their Lincoln Park backyard from 3 to 6 p.m., along with Shake Shack and Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, to celebrate the chefs’ individual Beard nominations (Best Chef: Great Lakes, Outstanding Pastry Chef). Tickets run $50 and include Wolen’s Boka x Shake Shack burger (layered with red onion marmalade, pickles, cheddar, and Dijonnaise), plus desserts and drinks.
—Lauded Bay Area libation lounge Trick Dog (nominated for Outstanding Bar Program this year) is popping up at Lost Lake’s Stranger in Paradise (that room to the right when you walk in) from 4 to 10 p.m. Four generations of Trick Dog managers (Morgan Schick, Caitlin Laman, Kimberly Rosselle, Caitie Connolly, and Joshua Jancewiz) will take turns tending bar, building cocktails from past menus. Snag space by RSVPing to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 3.
—A couple of awesome bars from New York and Mexico are hitting Chicago for the Beards. From 4 to 8 p.m. both Pam Wiznitzer of New York’s globally-inspired Seamstress and Jose Luis Leon of what many deem Mexico City’s best bar, Licorería Limantour (the 14th best bar on the World’s 50 Best Bars list), will blend beverages at Three Dots and a Dash along with the tiki den’s beverage director, Kevin Beary.
—One of New Orleans’ most esteemed cocktail bars, Cure, lands at The Violet Hour from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Owner Kirk Estopinal (formerly a Violet Hour tender) will be behind the bar shaking $10 libations paired with small bites from chef Alfredo Nogueira of The Cure Group. This party, surprisingly, is standing room only.
—Also from The Big Easy, acclaimed Cane & Table honchoes Chris Hannah and Nick Detrich are bringing their newly-minted Manolito to the Windy City. From 4 to 7 p.m. catch them behind Estereo’s bar serving a bevy of rum-based intoxicants, including their Floridita Daiquiri. Manolito chef Cesar Nuñez will pair drinks with ropa vieja-topped cheese arepas.
Monday, May 7
—A bunch of heavy-hitter L.A. chefs are teaming up for a stellar brunch at Elske. Evan Funke of Felix in Venice will be serving his famed light-as-air focaccia; Lula Cafe/Marisol’s Jason Hammel and Sarah Rinkavage are planning to plate spelt porridge with rhubarb, a fennel and poppy seed biscuit, and their popular sunflower hummus; Miles Thomson of Michael’s in Santa Monica is going with braised shiitakes with shio koji and lime leaves; Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon, also in Santa Monica, will serve beets with anchovy, capers, and garlic; Jessica Koslow of Silver Lake’s Sqirl is rejiggering her famed brioche toast with ricotta and jam to replace the bread for baghrir pancakes; and finally hosts Anna and David Posey will offer a buttered cucumber salad with sprouted buckwheat and smoked egg yolk. Brunch costs $60, with five seatings from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Proceeds benefit the JBF Women in Culinary Leadership Program.
—Dos Urban Cantina chef and owner Brian Enyart is throwing a tamale pop-up at Lone Wolf from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. to celebrate his wife, Jennifer Jones Enyart’s, James Beard semi-finalist (Outstanding pastry Chef) nod. He’s planning to sell playful Mexican-inspired snacks like chicharrons with French onion dip and Doritos dressed with cotija cheese and pickled pig’s skin, while Jones Enyart will prep rhubarb empanadas and chocolate chip chicharron cookies. The duo also plans to give out complimentary tamales all night.
—Technically, this event serves as the kickoff for Chicago Style, but with a slate of strong players, it’s still worth a mention. Fords Gin and mezcal brand Del Maguey are hosting Bar Fight Club (the winning bar nabs a trip to London) at Fulton Market Kitchen from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets cost $20 to try drams designed by Washington D.C.’s Barmini by Jose Andres, local bar The Drifter, Seattle’s Navy Strength, Denver’s RiNo Yacht Club, Minneapolis’ Spoon and Stable, and Oakland’s Starline Social Club. Also, expect a gin and tonic bar plus mezcal tastings.